Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays still seeking bench, bullpen help

The Rays actually have had a busy offseason, what with three major-league free agent additions (C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus, RHP Shawn Tolleson), four trades, several waiver claims and the usual assortment of minor-league deals.

But even though it's mid January and there look to be 14 new faces on the 40-man roster, they are likely not done.

With prices dropping on dozens of free agents still on a market that was stalled until resolution of the CBA, the Rays are in position to add another veteran or two to a squad currently costing around $65 million.

One logical target would be a proven right-handed hitter, preferably to play first and elsewhere, though potentially at the bench spot of Tim Beckham (unless he learns the outfield) or Nick Franklin. While not in on Mike Napoli, they could find that fit in Mark Reynolds, who can play several positions. Much less versatile, though with more power, is Chris Carter.

Or they could add an outfielder, which could put a squeeze on newly acquired, though optionable, Mallex Smith or perhaps Steven Souza Jr. Austin Jackson, Franklin Gutierrez and Peter Bourjos are among those still available.

Another area that could use help is the bullpen, even with the addition of Tolleson, whose deal along with Rasmus' will be completed this week. Though they seem to have more of a need for a lefty (a J.P. Howell reunion?), there are more righty options, with Sergio Romo among the most intriguing along with the likes of Fernando Salas, Joe Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen. A deal with veteran Greg Holland is unlikely.

Other teams are looking for pieces, too, so there's still the possibility the Rays will get one of those too-good-to-pass-up offers for a key piece, such as 2B Logan Forsythe or a pitcher.

DRAFT BREEZE: With last week's dumping of OF Mikie Mahtook to Detroit, the Rays have even less to show from their 2011 draft haul, when they had 10 of the top 60 picks. Only LHP Blake Snell, Mahtook and OF Tyler Goeddel (as a Rule 5 pick by the Phillies) have reached the majors yet. INF Brandon Martin and OFs Kes Carter and James Harris were released; INF Jake Hager and pitchers Jeff Ames, Grayson Garvin and Taylor Guerrieri have had injury issues of various degree.

BIG SURPRISE: Despite the additions of Rasmus, Smith and waiver claim Jason Coats, Mahtook said he had no inkling he would be traded.

"I wasn't anticipating anything," he said, "I was just going about my offseason like I normally do, getting ready for spring training. Then I got the phone call. And then it got really weird."

Mahtook said he remains appreciative of the opportunity the Rays gave him. While disappointed in his play, he said he leaves with no regrets and is excited by the chance to win the Tigers' centerfield job.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Stadium conversations remain ongoing on both sides of the bay, with a target of resolution, in some form, by August. … ESPN's Keith Law dropped the Rays five spots to 19th in his annual ranking of farm systems, citing a step back by some pitchers but noting progress by high-ceiling hitters. … Amid Hall of Fame talk, who is likely to be the first — or next, if you count Wade Boggs — inductee with a significant Rays career? Evan Longoria? David Price? It might be ex-manager Joe Maddon. … Despite winning back-to-back Gold Gloves, Kevin Kiermaier was ranked only ninth on Buster Olney's ESPN list of top centerfielders, behind Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley, Christian Yelich, A.J. Pollock, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Eaton, Dexter Fowler and Charlie Blackmon. Longoria was sixth at third base. … MLB Network's rankings show had Forsythe ninth at second base and Longoria 10th at third. … Expect single-game ticket sales to launch in early to mid February; Fan Fest is Feb. 4. … Former Ray Toby Hall's annual charity golf tourney, featuring numerous big-leaguers and benefitting programs for kids with disabilities, is Feb. 10 at Innisbrook; see tournevents.com/THF2017. … Interviews are ongoing to replace Todd Kalas (who left for Houston) on the Fox Sports Sun broadcasts. … Zac Law, who played centerfield in three seasons since being a 23rd-round pick in 2014, is being switched to catcher. … Longoria donated $100,000 toward renovations of the field at Long Beach State, where he played.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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